Mud crab with tomato, fennel and chilli
Choosing a live mud crab from the market, taking it home and dealing with it is one of the very few occasions we urban folk take personal responsibility for dispatching a live animal.
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- Mud Crab 1kg
- 1 medium onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups of pureed tomatoes
- 6 small red chillies split in half
- 1 bulb of diced fennel
- 3 finely sliced spring onions
- rock salt
First, make a sauce by mincing a medium onion and 2 garlic cloves, and then lightly frying them in a pan with 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil until transparent. Add 2 cups of pureed tomatoes, 6 small red chillies split in half and a bulb of diced fennel. Simmer for 15 minutes then season with salt and pepper to taste. Take a cooked 1kg mud crab and lift off the shell from the body. Take out the grey, feather-like gills - often called "dead men's fingers". Split the crab in half, top to bottom. Simmer the two halves in the pan with the sauce for 5-6 minutes, adding 3 finely sliced spring onions.
How to cook a mud crab
For freshness and flavour, it's always best to buy mud crabs live. To prepare a live crab for cooking, refrigerate it for a couple of hours.
It will fall into a hibernating sleep. Meanwhile, prepare a pot of water deep enough to submerge the crab. When available use clean seawater or add 150g of rock salt for every litre of fresh water. Rock salt is essential because fine salt will overpower the flesh, making it too salty. Bring the water to a rolling boil then add the crab. For every 500g of crab weight, cook for 7 minutes.
A 1kg crab should cook for 14 minutes. Take the cooked crab from the pot and allow it to cool.